Garrity picks a Dad's Hat Happy Hour of races at Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Fair Grounds, and Santa Anita
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Garrity picks a Dad's Hat Happy Hour of races at Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Fair Grounds, and Santa Anita

First picked race, the 7th at Aqueduct, has a post time of 4:25 pm ET

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another edition of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping: we have six races, from six tracks, all of them with cocktail-friendly late afternoon/early evening post times. We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, so let’s go.

Aqueduct, Race 7, 4:25 pm ET

Allowance, 7 furlongs, Dirt, New York-breds 4 & Up

Eight state-breds go in this first-level allowance at 7 furlongs on the main track. We’re against the favorite, 8-Prince of Pharoahs, who just missed in his last: he is a speed horse who set the pace running very moderate fractions, at this level and at this distance, in his last start on January 8. If he couldn’t get it done with that kind of advantageous trip, he’s a play-against, especially at a short price.

We like 6-Troubleshooter. He did some good work in the fall at Finger Lakes and Belmont, earning speed figures that are competitive with the rest of this field, then had a disastrous race on January 8, the same race in which Prince of Pharoahs finished second, when he trailed throughout and finished last. There are a couple of reasons to think he’s going to improve today: the first is that he probably needed the race, as it was his first start since October; the second is that the blinkers come off today, and all his prior good efforts were without them. We think he’s in with a big shot today, and at 12-1, we’re taking that opinion to the window. We will bet him to win. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 7, $35 to win on 6-Troubleshooter.

Gulfstream Park, Race 8, 4:46 pm ET

Allowance, 5 ½ furlongs, Dirt, Florida-bred 3-Year-Olds

This sprint is for Florida-bred sophomore colts who have never won a race other than maiden, starter, or claiming, and six were entered. Speed and pace figures mark 3-Real Talk as a strong play: he has plenty of speed, and will be right up front early, either on the lead or just off it, and enough of a finishing kick to squirt clear down the stretch. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 8, $35 to win on 3-Real Talk.

Oaklawn Park, Race 7, 5:09 pm ET

Allowance, 6 furlongs, Dirt, Arkansas-breds 3 & Up

Big fields are the norm at Oaklawn, and this state-bred allowance is a good example of that, as twelve go to the gate to sprint 6 furlongs. We like a speed play, in the form of the very quick 9-Captain Don. The 4-year-old’s races fall into two categories: when he gets a comfortable early lead, he runs big; when he has to run contested early fractions, he quits. We foresee the former today, as he has much more early zip than any other horse in the race, and he also gets an outside post position, which is a tactical advantage in races around one turn. We think Captain Don goes right to the front and doesn’t look back; we will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Oaklawn Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 9-Captain Don.

Fair Grounds, Race 8, 5:23 pm ET

Allowance, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, FIllies & Mares 4 & Up

A field of eight goes in this turf race for older females. We think the early pace will be fast enough to set up the late charge of 9-More Good Times, a 4-year-old daughter of More than Ready who finished second in her last start, doing so with a strong rally from the back of the pack. We see a similar setup, but a better result, today. We will bet her to win at 5-1. The bet: Fair Grounds, Race 8, $40 to win on 9-More Good Times.

Santa Anita Park, Race 5, 5:40 pm ET

Maiden Special Weight, 1 mile, Turf, FIllies & Mares 4 & Up

Eight older female maidens line up for this turf race. We’re going with the favorite, 6-Witch Moon, an Ontario-bred 4-year-old filly who was last seen finishing fifth in a similar spot at Woodbine on November 7. We like that she’s coming off a brief freshening, and also, we like her running style: she’s got decent speed, enough early foot to stay in contact with the leaders, combined with a good closing kick. And what we like most of all is that she runs today for new trainer Phil D’Amato, who wins at an exceptionally high 28% rate with horses making their first from his barn. We will bet her to win at 2-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 5, $35 to win on 6-Witch Moon.

Santa Anita Park, Race 7, 6:45 pm ET

$75,000 Baffle Stakes, 6 ½ furlongs, Turf, 3-Year-Olds

Nine go in the Baffle, the day’s lone stakes race in North America. We like an Irish import, 5-Sword Zorro, who hit the board in all five of his starts as a juvenile in Ireland last year. We especially like his last race, when he broke his maiden at Leopardstown on October 24; he won by four lengths that day, and we think he may actually be better than that, as the race was run over boggy turf, and he looks like the kind of colt who will prefer firmer footing. Simply put, we think Sword Zorro outclasses this field, and at 6-1, that makes him a tremendous play. We will bet him to win, and we will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $50 to win on 5-Sword Zorro.

That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the races, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.

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